Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


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What to do with Chamomile?

Chamomile, an herb I am sure everyone should have at least heard of once. It is a common ingredient in most prepared “sleepy” teas, you know things like cubby wubby womb room…

wooooooooah-man!

But chamomile is so much more! Historically it has been used by the Egyptians, who associated the sunny flowers with the sun gods, used it to treat fevers. The Romans used it for headaches and urinary tract disorders. Pliny the Elder also wrote about and recommended it to his students. It has been grown for generations in English gardens and used for stomach disorders and treating intestinal parasites on the European continent. In Spain and Mexico it is known as Manzanilla, which means little apple, a common name due to its smell, and is used for hair rinses. If you have blond hair, it will enhance highlights and makes a great addition to shampoos or a rinse. But sadly, it is another one of those plants that everyone seems to know of, but not much about.

First we need to make clear the different types of chamomile.

What?! There are different types of chamomile?!

whatchoo

Yes! There are many types of chamomile, in fact nine in all, but there are only a few that we will be concerned with here. The biggest problem with chamomile is that it has so many common names, that it can become confusing to a novice. So I will be listing the Latin names, and then the most common “vulgar” names. You will notice that these are different species, but the properties of some are extremely similar.

ProTip: You will find that most packaged chamomile is only labeled as just Chamomile, and it will probably be either a blend of the Roman and German, or more likely just German. Roman is slightly more difficult to find, but most good quality herb stores will carry it and designate between the two.

Matricaria chamomilla – A.K.A. German Chamomile, Hungarian Chamomile, scented mayweed

the mugshot

Like all chamomile, this is a well known sleep aid, it is great to add to skullcap teas, holy basil teas, or mix the oils (or flowers) with lavender and Epsom salts for a relaxing bath. It is noticeably different as an essential oil from its Roman cousin, as German has a distinct blue color and Roman oil is yellow to pale yellow, or pale blue even. German is better for anti-inflammatory, but shares most of the same properties as Roman.  You can use both internally and externally, but this specific species is the most studied strain of chamomile by modern science. Remember – if you try one, and don’t get good results, you can almost always try the other and see if it works better.

It has a lovely straw scent, apple if you use Roman, that goes well with lavender and hops in herb pillows to help with sleep. My all time favorite uses for this is an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic, and a mild analgesic. A hot compress of chamomile can ease spasmed muscles reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and a hot compress is just about the loveliest thing you have ever experienced when you have nagging persistent muscle spasms. If you don’t get good results with any of the below remedies, scroll down to Roman.

Chamomile Hot Compress

  • 1 tablespoon of dried chamomile
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • towel (or other absorbent cloth)
  • bowl

Steep the chamomile in the boiling water for 1o minutes, remove herbs and reheat if necessary and soak towel in warm liquid (or go as hot as you can stand, be careful not to scald yourself). Apply the towel to the affected area and leave on until cools and re-heat and apply again as necessary. It also works great if you have puffy eyes!

As I said before you can mix this with lavender, or other herbs for a relaxing bath, but it is great just on its own.

Chamomile Bath

  • 8 tablespoons of dried chamomile
  • 4 cups boiling water

Steep chamomile in boiling water for about 10 minutes and add to a drawn bath. You can include the chamomile itself in the bath to help increase its potency. This is great not only for sore or spasmed muscles, but also great for alleviating stress. A great bath to have right before bed to ensure a restful sleep.

ProTip: If you can only find chamomile tea in pre-made tea bags you can use 8 teabags for the bath, and 2-4 for the compress.

Chamomile Bath Salts

  • 5c Epsom Salts
  • 5-10 drops Chamomile Essential Oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried Chamomile flowers per cup of salts (just like lavender you can add as much or little of these as you like)

Mix well and store in dry place, you would use about a cup per bath. You can add the additional items listed in the lavender post if you like, but this works great as is. This and the plain chamomile bath are great for menstrual cramps.

As we have said, chamomile works great for muscle spasms and you can use it to treat cramps, you can also use the essential oil topically on the abdomen to treat cramps or stomach issues, as well as for muscle pains. It works great as an addition to massage oils as well to help de-stress and relieve tension.

I highly recommend this German chamomile oil, if you go with another brand make sure it is a therapeutic grade essential oil.

Chamaemelum nobile – A.K.A Roman Chamomile, Noble Chamomile, camomile, English Chamomile, garden chamomile, ground apple

the mugshot

This is a brother from another mother of German chamomile, it has all the great antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, stress, sleep and pain relief properties and will work measured in the same amounts for all the above listed recipes. It is much better, I find, at lifting the mood, soothing sore muscles and topical pain. Both are good for sleeping, menstrual pain, and really are almost interchangeable.

Chamomile Tea for Sleep

  • 1/2 oz of dried chamomile
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • honey or other sweetener to taste

Steep for 10 minutes for a sleepy tea, preferably in a covered teacup or teapot multiply all amounts by 4 if you are brewing in a teapot. It is said that if you suffer from persistent nightmares this is a sure-fire remedy for sleeping well.

Chamomile Tea for Digestion

  • 1/2 oz dried chamomile
  • 2 cup boiling water

Steep this for 20 minutes and drink to settle the stomach, if it is upset from medications or pain. A few slices of ginger can be included and is rather pleasant with chamomile. This tea is great for cramping in the digestive tract or other digestive muscle issues, since it will deal with the muscle spasms as well as reducing inflammation.

Chamomile helps in healing wounds and is a great antibacterial wash for cuts, or surgery incisions if you want a mild way to help keep them clean. Just make the tea for sleep and wash affected area, or for some whole body healing from something like chicken pox, to help with healing the skin, the bath recipe in the German chamomile section works quite well.

Again, the topical application of the essential oils is great for topical pain, and I personally prefer this over German for my pain. You can apply directly, with a carrier oil, or with a hot compress (listed above).

Chamomile Essential Oil for Topical Pain

  • 1-2 drops of chamomile essential oils
  • slightly damp hot towel

Rub oil directly into painful area, or place a few drops on heated towel and apply directly to painful area. This works well for menstrual cramps too.

I have read of but not used a topical pain compress that can be made of 10 parts chamomile to 5 parts poppy flowers steeped in water and then applied for pain. I hope to give this a try sometime soon to see how effective it is.

For the Roman chamomile essential oil I use go here, again if you go with another brand make sure it is a therapeutic grade essential oil.

Additional Reading:

For information about chamomile by Georgetown school of pharmacology on German and Roman chamomile are a great read and informative.

For more medical information about the chemicals chamomile contains by a PhD from Campbell (pharmaceutical university) go here.

Warning!

If you are allergic to Ragweed, you should do a skin test patch prior to using chamomile. You should test ALL herbal remedies for allergies and interactions, but this one especially so for Ragweed. You should be careful with chamomile (and peppermint) if you suffer from acid re-flux and should consult a professional before taking chamomile. Also as chamomile can cause uterine contractions it is best for pregnant women to avoid taking it internally, though if you are absolutely set on using it speak with your doctor first.

Always check for interactions, resources like WebMD for Roman and WebMD for German are useful. Do your own trials and find what works best for you, and if you are ever in doubt about anything at all, ask a professional!

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Lavender, not just for Grandma’s closet.

Lavender, if you are like most people, it’s one of those scents that you don’t think of as medicinal or really think much of. It is in perfume’s, room sprays, soaps and lotions. You see it in those sachet’s in your Grandma’s closet or in some Herbs de Provence. It is the ubiquitous “spa” lotion, massage oil, eye pillow flower, but do you ever really stop to think how kick-ass this small purple flower is?

So much bad assery, packed into something so small.

While there are many types of lavender the type we are concerned about is Lavandula angustifolia. This is the one used in most herbal preparations. A brief history about the famous purple plant, it has been used by humanity for over 2,500 years, and is well documented in use in Egypt, Phoenicians, in the Hebrew Bible, and New Testaments. The present name most likely comes from Rome, and the Roman use of lavender in bathing preparations. The Latin root for the name is either lavare– to wash, or livendula– livid or bluish. It was used by Judith in the Bible to seduce Holofermes, and by Cleopatra to seduce Julius Caesar. There is even a song referencing it, I am sure you know the “Lavender Blue, dilly dilly” song. It always seemed vaguely naughty to me, boy was I right. Lavender’s seductive qualities was not lost in 17th century England. According to the Traditional Ballad Index (oh internets, you never fail to amaze me) the song is about:

“”Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly…” Singer tells his lady that she must love him because he loves her. He tells of a vale where young man and maid have lain together, and suggests that they might do the same, and that she might love him (and also his dog)”

History having more sexy time than Showtime, since always. “Come on baby, let’s lavender diddle diddle!”

It should be your most loved and used too. Lavender is something I try to keep on me all the time. It is great for:

  • Skin preparations for daily use
  • Skin preparations for acne
  • For daily hair use – shampoo, etc.
  • Can encourage hair regrowth especially in people with alopecia areata
  • Treating bug bites – best thing ever for itchy fire ant, flea and mosquito bites, but useful for all bites
  • Keeping bugs out – a good insect repellent, or for daily use (does increase sun sensitivity make sure to add sun-blocking agents) and can be used on bed linens for bed bugs, fleas, or other uses where bug spray is needed
  • Burns! Yes, never get nasty scars from burns, and you will love it on a sunburn. Soothing!
  • Well known as a sleeping aid
  • A mild muscle relaxer, that may also help reduce pain in general
  • In massage can reduce anxiety and increase relaxation
  • Delicious baked goods, and savory dishes, really it can go in anything
  • Teas, or even infused water/spa waters

I could go on and on about its uses! As you can see it, like peppermint, is just more than useful to have around.

Personally I use lavender to help soothe muscle pain, relax, and as a sleep aid. I do use it in cooking a lot, and when I make my own shampoo (which if you haven’t you should, I use this recipe) but mostly the before mentioned uses.

Baths & Bath Salts

I love a hot bath, and with my muscle spasms it helps a lot of things to release and with lavender you can really help those muscle spasms relax further. Sometimes I find that just taking a hot bath with lavender can reduce a lot of aches and pains. If you don’t have the time to make your own, buy some good quality ones. There are lots of brands out there, I prefer Dr. Teal’s Lavender, it is on the more expensive side and there are cheaper or more expensive versions out there. Just make sure you review the ingredients.

If you would like to make your own, it is super easy to do and doesn’t take long.

Lavender Epsom Salt Recipe

  • 5 cups (40 oz) of Epsom Salts
  • 5-10 drops Lavender essential oil
  • A few teaspoons of dried lavender flowers (I just add them until I like the amount, based on previous baths, but I would say a teaspoon a cup ratio to start)

That’s it! You want to make sure you mix it well, breaking up any lumps, and store it in a dry spot in a sealed container. You could add different oils for different effects. You have the option of reducing the Epsom salts to 4 cups and adding:

  • 1 cup Baking Soda OR 1 cup Powdered Milk
  • 1 cup Sea Salt
  • Soap colorants/dyes, don’t use food coloring as it could stain your tub

If you use powdered milk you need to make sure you rinse your tub well. You could even make cheap Christmas or Birthday gifts with this too, great for large group gifts and people will think you spent a ton of time on it!

Sleep Aids

Where to start with these? There are just SO many things you can do with Lavender to help you sleep. So to keep it simple, I am only going over my favorites that happen to be so because they are the easiest.

  • Lavender Essential oil (therapeutic grade as always) – couple deployment methods here, my preferred is to take a drop and rub some on your temples and smooth the rest over your pillow. You can also put a drop in 6-8 oz. of warm milk (or milk substitute) or water.
  • Dried or fresh Lavender tea – you can get food grade lavender lots of places, or grow your own. I would start by mixing this into a chamomile tea at first since lavender can be bitter, and a little goes a long way. Start with a 1/4 teaspoon and work your way up. You can do just pure lavender if you are brave enough. (Also works the same in infused waters, just use cold water and let sit for a few hours in the fridge.)
  • Lavender (or lavender and hops) pillows – I will go into more detail about the hops version in later posts, but just a small sachet of dried lavender placed in your pillow while you sleep will greatly improve quantity and quality of sleep.

As always test things out on yourself, it is always trial and error finding out what works best for you. Make sure to check reactions on WebMD. Always educate yourself before taking anything and when in doubt, consult a professional!